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Family of cancer patient takes to the skies to thank his doctor

Click the image to see the drone video

The family of a Glasgow man suffering from cancer has praised the NHS for the speedy care he received during the Covid-19 pandemic.

James Donnelly, 72, was rushed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary with a large growth on his left thigh. Within days his specialists diagnosed Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

James, from Bishopbriggs, had surgery to remove the tumour at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, thanks to a collaboration between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Golden Jubilee.

The partnership allows NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to continue providing a seamless service for West of Scotland patients with life-threatening musculoskeletal conditions, with the surgical element of service carried out at the Golden Jubilee by Glasgow surgeons.

James’ daughter-in-law Caroline McEwan said: “It all happened in a blink of an eye. All the tests at the Royal were done in one day, to minimise visits. We found out right away it was cancer and the surgery couldn’t wait.

“Because of the Covid situation, his specialist Mr Mahendra carried out the operation at the Golden Jubilee, where he is still recovering. The teamwork between the two hospitals was amazing.”

The nine-hour operation took place on 6 May - a day Caroline and her family will never forget.

“We got the call we were waiting for at 6.30pm. Mr Mahendra called us, sounding exhausted, and told us it had gone really well and the tumour had come away easier than he expected. He had also managed to save his leg – amputation was a real possibility before.

“It was so overwhelming for us all. You can’t put those emotions into words. My family will be forever grateful to him and his amazing team.

“Their dedication is immense. During this pandemic they have turned out every day, doing what they do for their patients. They say they’re just doing their job. But it’s so much more.

“Mr Mahendra has made a point of going to see my father-in-law, just to see how he’s doing. I also want to thank all the team at the Golden Jubilee who have looked after James like their own.”

James’ grandson Kiaran, 16, decided he wanted to thank Mr Mahendra in a special way. Kiaran and his mum got some chalk from their three-year-old neighbour Lyra, before drawing a huge NHS sign in the middle of their road. They then sent a drone video to Mr Mahendra saying, “Words are not enough”.

Caroline added: “Kiaran is James’ only grandchild and their bond is incredible. He just wanted to let the team know what they had done for our family. They are miracle workers in our eyes and we will never forget them.”

Mr Ashish Mahendra, who runs the Orthopaedic Oncology service at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, has praised his orthopaedic colleagues at the Golden Jubilee for stepping up to help keep the service running.

He said: “I'd also like to thank Mr Donnelly's family, especially Kiaran, for their kind words. They do mean a lot to our cancer services team. 

“Surgery for bone cancers would normally take place in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we moved the surgical service for these patients to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital.

“We had no option but to carry out this move at a very short notice. The professionalism and collaboration showed by the clinicians and managers at the Golden Jubilee to allow the sarcoma service transfer from GRI to the Golden Jubilee at such a short notice in a safe manner has been exceptional.

“The recovery following these surgeries can be fairly prolonged and the nursing/physiotherapy staff at the Golden Jubilee stepped up to the challenge and have been truly exceptional during this period. This has allowed us to continue with all MSK oncology surgeries in the west of Scotland in a relatively seamless manner without delay during these difficult times. It’s been a big team effort.”

NHS Golden Jubilee Orthopaedic Surgeon Jason Roberts, said: “It has been great to work alongside NHSGGC to provide this service. The positive feedback we have received from both patients and staff reflects how well we have all worked together as a team to deliver this during this difficult period.

“One of the major benefits for both the patients and the service is that we can keep high risk tumour patients away from COVID-19 as much as possible at such a vulnerable time for them.

“We are very happy to provide our expertise and available resources to do what we can during this pandemic, which has helped to keep this vital service running as normally as possible.”

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